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From Wikipedia: "Metagame, literally "a game outside the game," is a prediction of how others will make decisions in a game based on their personality or their previous decisions. A metagame can exist in any game in which the opposition is human or portrays some sort of artificial intelligence and the competitors make choices. Metagaming is taking advantage of the metagame for purposes of winning more often."
Within Guild Wars, the metagame refers chiefly to the skill selections and profession combinations in builds (solo and team) used to win PvP battles. There are multiple metagames in Guild Wars, including:
- Guild versus Guild metagame
- Tournament metagame (also known as Heroes' Ascent or Tombs metagame)
- Random Arena metagame (less well defined than other metagames, but a metagame exists regardless)
The popularity of builds is more precisely called the environment, though this is also one meaning of the term metagame. The environment, in general, includes all factors that players should take into account when playing the metagame. For instance, Factions introduced Assassins and Ritualists into the environment.
- At any particular time, the current metagame is a description of the builds that are popular within that metagame. For instance, there was a time when Air Spike teams were popular in "the" metagame. Or someone might say, "Warrior/Monk runners are the most popular in the GvG metagame".
- The metagame evolves over time. This is an essential part of the design of Guild Wars. This is often reflected in what people call the Flavor of the Month. Often, a particular build (team or individual) will become dominant for some time, until players figure out that (1) that build is the build to beat and (2) how to beat it. Then there is usually a metagame shift, where the new build that defeats the old build becomes popular, and the cycle continues. A branch of game theory (evolutionary games) studies this type of shifting game strategy.
- The metagame usually does not consist of a single build or team build, but rather the interplay of popular builds and thus the skills that help to counter them as well. As the popular builds shift so does the popularity of the counters. For instance, you might say, "Illusionary Weaponry and Minion Factory are popular now, so taking Shatter Enchantment and Verata's Aura would be a good idea."
- The Random Arena doesn't have team builds, so the metagame is a bit more random and is entirely focused on individual builds. Regardless, there have been times when a Mesmer/Necromancer Fragility Spiker has been popular, so bringing Hex removal was wise, or even something as simple as Warriors showing up in large numbers, making skills like Empathy or Distortion more useful.